Tag Archives: pastry

Mushroom tart


That tart is exciting. It’s light and lemony and tastes of summer. And most importantly, it’s all about the mushrooms. I adapted this recipe from the one in the River Cottage Everyday cookbook, which celebrates food in way I really like. Simple ingredients, simple methods, big flavours. In this case, the central ingredient is the mushrooms. This tart would be perfectly adequate if you just used one type of mushroom, but don’t do that. There’s something wonderful about the range of textures and shapes that can occur within the category of things that are still mushrooms. The more of them you can have going on in this tart, the better. I used chestnut, button and oyster mushrooms.

150g puff pastry
200g mixed mushrooms
a pat of butter
1 clove of garlic, crushed
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
20g parmesan, grated

Serves 2 as a light main or very substantial starter
Calories: 390
Takes 45 minutes to make

Stage one: Roll out the pastry into whatever shape you like. Make it round or square, it’s all the same to me. Fold the edges over. Pop it in the fridge while you’re cooking the mushrooms.


Stage two: Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C. Thickly slice the mushrooms where appropriate. By appropriate, I mean slice chestnut mushrooms, but only halve oyster mushrooms or other fiddly types.

Stage three: In a saucepan, melt the pat of butter over a medium heat and then add in the mushrooms, stirring occasionally. When the mushrooms start to reduce, stir in the garlic. Continue to cook until the water that seeps out of the mushrooms has evaporated. Remove from the heat, and then stir in the lemon zest and parsley. Season lightly – the lemon already adds a lot of flavour!


Stage four: Take the pastry out of the fridge and spread the mushrooms over the top. Sprinkle on the parmesan.


Stage five: Bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry has gone golden. Serve hot or cold.



Cheesy filo parcels


There exists for me a very rare and special category of food: food that is so much lower in calories than it ought to be that it almost feels unfair. Portions that look huge and are full of cheese, but somehow there’s no nutritional downside. It appears that filo pastry is the key to this category. It’s thin and fragile, but bakes into solid, crunchy goodness so that you don’t notice how little there is of it. Plus it makes me feel all fancy. Filo pastry is a great way of separating out the filling for what would otherwise have been a single large pie into lots of little filo parcels, which means you get so much more crunch for your filling. Brilliant. Fair warning: these parcels are a bit fiddly. But they don’t take long, and they’re worth it. Some of the cheese leaked out of mine in the oven, and at first I panicked and was sad and assumed it was a disaster. Turns out, it wasn’t. It makes no different to the cheesiness or crunchiness of the parcels, plus I got to eat the crispy cheese. I guess a fix for this would be to double up the filo pastry for each parcel, which you are welcome to do, but I’m happy with fewer calories and crispy cheese.

You can use these parcels as a fancy low-calorie starter, or eat three of them and still have a low calorie dinner but feel like you are eating a feast. Guess which I did?

3 filo pastry sheets
250g spinach
800g plum tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
100g mature cheddar (I used low fat)
2 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil

Makes 6 parcels
Calories per parcel: 160
Takes 60 minutes

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C. Quarter the tomatoes, mix in the garlic and 1 tsp of olive oil, season and pop in the oven for 30 minutes. I’d give them a mix around half way through to stop them burning. This should dehydrate the tomatoes and intensify their flavour. If they’re still plump at the end of the 30 minutes, roast them for a further 10 minutes. The drier they are, the easier they will be to work with.

Stage two: Meanwhile, put the spinach in a colander and pour a kettle full of boiling water over it to wilt. Leave to cool, then squeeze as much of the water out of it was possible. Grate the cheddar into a bowl.

Stage three: Lay out the first sheet of filo pastry, and halve it so that you have 2 filo squares. Take a sixth of the tomato mixture and put it on the centre of the bottom edge of one of the squares. Sprinkle a sixth of the cheddar and the spinach on top.


Stage four: OK, here’s the fiddly bit. Gently start to roll up the parcel into a sausage. The tomato is going to want to seep through and rip the filo, so you’ll need to support it as you roll it up. Brush both sides of the pastry roll with olive oil, and then fold the ends of the sausage over the tomato side of the roll. This will help it hold together in the oven. Repeat for the other 5 parcels.


Stage five: Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, and lay the parcels on it. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.


Spinach, feta and caramelised onion tart


This tart looks posh and colourful but is surprisingly easy to make. The highlights for me are the cheat’s caramelised onions made in 20 minutes (the secret is balsamic vinegar), and puff pastry. The balsamic onions are great because I generally like to add balsamic vinegar to anything I can, but also they’re quick, easy and beautiful. Nothing was ever going to go wrong with those onions. I want to add them to everything. Pastry is less predictable, but I love making puff pastry because the trick is not to try too hard. Don’t mix in the butter too well. Don’t roll it out too much. Just go with it, pop it in the oven and hope for the best, and ta-da! The sight of the pastry puffing despite my limited pastry making abilities fills me with joy.

350g puff pastry (buy ready rolled to make your life easy)
2 red onions
100g feta cheese
200g spinach
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp vegetable oil

Serves 4
Calories: 480
Takes about 45 minutes

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 200C/fan180C. Slice the red onions and put them in a pan with 1 tbsp vegetable oil over a medium-low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have gone soft. If they start to burn, lower the heat and add a tbsp water and miraculously everything gets better. After the 10 minutes are up, add the balsamic vinegar and then cook 10 minutes more. They’re going to go the most wonderful red-pinky colour, and taste just like you’ve been caramelising them for hours. But you haven’t! Muahaha. Remove them from the heat.


Stage two: Put the spinach in a colander, fill and boil the kettle and then pour the boiling water over the spinach to wilt it. Leave the colander in the sink for the spinach to cool and drain.

Stage three: While the spinach is cooling, roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle about the thickness of a pound coin. Fold over the edges to make it look fancy. Brush it with the tsp of vegetable oil, and then put it in the oven for 15 minutes until it’s gone golden and puffed up in the middle. While the pastry is in the oven, squeeze as much water as you can out of the spinach.


Stage four: When the pastry is done, gently press the middle down with the back of a spoon. Spread the spinach over the base of the pastry, and then spread the onion over it. Admire the wonderful colours. Finally, crumble the feta over the top, and then pop it in the oven for 10 minutes until the cheese has gone golden. Serve immediately, although it works great cold too!


Chocolate twists


Apparently I don’t put enough chocolate in this bog. Fine. I’ll keep it simple. The chocolate twists in Costa have always looked beautiful and totally replicable at home, and guess what? They are!


350g puff pastry
100g dark chocolate
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp butter

Makes 6 twists
Calories: 340
Takes 25 minutes to make

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 200C/fan180C. I used Gordon Ramsay’s recipe to make 350g of puff pastry. Roll it out into a rectangle such that the pastry is the thickness of a pound coin and measures 20cm by 30cm. Then, with the long side of the rectangle facing you, slice it from top to bottom into 6 even strips (each 20cm long).

Stage two: Chop up the dark chocolate. Gently press the chocolate chunks along the centre of each pastry strip.


Stage three: Pinch the sides of each strip together to seal in the chocolate. Then, gently twist each strip into a spiral and lay it on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Don’t worry if they don’t look perfect, when they’re in the oven they’re going to split open a bit and some chocolate will seep out. There is nothing you can do about this, and they actually look better that way. Embrace the imperfection in oozing chocolate form. Finally, melt a tablespoon of butter, and then brush it over the top of each roll.


Stage four: Bake for 10-12 minutes until they go golden on top. Sprinkle icing sugar over them. Enjoy while hot!


Tomato, mozzarella and pesto tart


I love spending the day in the kitchen. This tart was a multi-stage project and each of those stages was fun. (Today I also made a batch of what were meant to be chocolate orange cookies, because you should eat oranges when you have a cold, but they came out of the oven looking like cookies but tasting like cake. My husband loves both cake and cookies and thinks that they’re great and should be called “cakies”, but I’m still a bit dubious. Still, they contain vitamin C so I will continue to eat them for health purposes. But they aren’t the point of this post.)


Anyway, this tart. You can do it the fast way or the slow way, depending on time and inclination. I had both, so I made the puff pastry and the pesto from scratch. The puff pastry I made using half of Gordon Ramsay’s recipe, which comes to 350g of pastry. Don’t be scared to make your own pastry! Speaking from limited experience, it’s really not that hard. The worst that happens tends to be that overworked puff pastry comes out as shortcrust, which is just as delicious, so have a go sometime.

If you don’t like the sound of making pastry, how about pesto? I love growing basil and making pesto. Growing basil I have down to something of an art. The trick is to put in it as much sun as possible, and to water it about 100ml whenever the leaves feel limp. Last year I grew a basil plant about 3 feet tall and I was very proud of it, but sadly my friends and family formed an emotional attachment to the thing and refused to let me harvest and eat it. And then it got infested with whitefly and died. Yes, I hold a grudge. Now I harvest the plants when they’re smaller (about 1/2 months in) to make the loss easier for them to bear. I don’t really have a recipe that I stick to when it comes to the pesto making bit, so it comes out differently each time, which I like. Generally, I harvest the plant (probably 100g), and blend the leaves with a clove of crushed garlic, about 30g grated vegetarian parmesan, sea salt, and extra virgin olive oil to turn it into a paste/sauce depending on my needs.


Ingredients for the tart:
350g puff pastry
2 tbsp pesto
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
60g half-fat mozzarella, roughly sliced
5-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
a little grated parmesan (optional)

Serves 4
Calories: 400
Takes about 45 minutes to make

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan170C. Roll out the pastry into a rectangle, and fold over the edges to make a border about 1cm thick. Prick with a fork and blind bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the pastry has puffed in the centre and has gone a pale golden colour. In the meantime, prep the vegetables and the cheese. Remove from the oven and gently flatten the centre using a fork.


Stage two: Lay out the pieces of mozzarella over the centre of the tart, and then spread over the pesto. Scatter the vegetables over the top, season, and finally sprinkle on the parmesan.


Stage three: Pop it in the oven for around 15 minutes until the vegetables are cooked. Serve with salad. This dish works really well cold, too!


Spinach and ricotta tart


This is so not what I had intended to make for dinner. I wanted to make spinach and ricotta gnocchi, but I still have no access to a stove. Actually, this morning there was a glorious hour in which my flat had no gas and no electricity, and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. It seemed necessary to turn to pastry for comfort, and thus dinner. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, though! Those little things like adding thinly sliced raw onion rather than bigger pieces of cooked onion gave the tart colour and texture that I am now going to pretend was deliberate and intended from the start.

For the shortcrust pastry, I used this recipe from BBC good food. It’s lovely and simple and takes about 20 minutes. I’ve never really understood why people are scared to make pastry, because I’m really not a skilled cook but it’s always worked fine for me. Particularly shortcrust. But if you don’t have the time, use 300g ready made shortcrust. I don’t judge, it tastes the same.


300g shortcrust pastry
250g ricotta
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 eggs
35g vegetarian parmesan, grated
a handful of basil, torn
200g spinach, washed
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced

Serves 4
Calories: 560
Time taken (excluding pastry) is about 20 minutes to prep and 20 minutes to bake.

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan170C. Then roll out your pastry until it’s about the thickness of a pound coin, and fit it into a tart case. Line the pastry with greaseproof baking paper and pour baking beans over the top. (If you don’t have baking beans, rice or dried real beans work too.) Pop in the oven for 10 minutes.

Stage two: Fill and boil a kettle. Put all the spinach into a colander, and then pour the boiling water over the spinach so that it wilts. Then pour cold water over the spinach to cool it, stirring it around so that it all cools. Be careful with this bit, because you’re likely to get pockets of heat in the spinach. Squeeze the water out of the spinach as thoroughly as possible, otherwise you will have trouble getting your tart to set. If you like, chop it, which I would imagine will make your tart a lovely green colour. I don’t bother. I like big bits of spinach. This is also the stage when I grated the parmesan and sliced the onion. Slice the onion thinly, or you will end up crunching on big pieces of raw onion.

Stage three: It is now 10 minutes later. Take the tart crust out of the oven and carefully lift out the baking beans on the greaseproof paper. Try not to throw the hot beans everywhere. I’ve done that. It’s a hassle. Put the tart back into the oven for about 5 minutes more, or until the crust has gone a lovely golden colour.

Stage four: Meanwhile, take the spinach, cheese, garlic, eggs, basil and onion and put them in a bowl. Mix really well. I love the way the little bits of red onion look in this mix. Season to taste. When the crust is done, dollop this mixture into the crust and spread it around.


Stage five: Pop everything in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the mix is set. If I could do this again, I would serve it with some sliced tomatoes.